The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and runner-up to National Player of the Year, Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan, was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the No. 26 of this year’s NBA draft. Swanigan was the third Big Ten player chosen in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Swanigan was projected to go anywhere from a late first round pick to mid-second round. According to his Twitter, he worked out for 20 of 30 NBA teams.
Swanigan put himself in this position after one of the best NCAA seasons over the past 15 years. The sophomore averaged 18.5 points per game and 12.5 rebounds. He shot nearly 45% from three-point range and 52.7% from the field. He recorded a school record 28 double-doubles and had multiple 20-20 games and a 32-20 game against Norfolk State.
From a team side of things, thanks in large part to Swanigan, Purdue won its first outright Big Ten championship since 1996 and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2010. In Swanigan’s two years at Purdue, the Boilermakers went 53-17 overall and 26-10 in the Big Ten.
It is the second year in a row a Boilermaker has been selected in the NBA draft. Center A.J. Hammons was selected by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round last year.
Biggie’s backstory is well known, but from a basketball standpoint, it shows the Trail Blazers are getting a player that wants to and will outwork everyone else on the team. The improvements to his body and jump in production from his freshman to sophomore year highlight a player who relentlessly will work to improve. With the NBA resources now available and his sole focus on basketball, the Trail Blazers have to be excited about the potential from Swanigan.
Expectations for Swanigan in the NBA are somewhat unknown. He showed dominance in college by brute strength and a three-point touch. At 6’8”, Swanigan could struggle in the NBA with longer and more athletic defenders. Turnovers are also a concern. He averaged 3.4 a game last season.
Defensively, Swanigan was inconsistent while at Purdue. He will likely need a defensive-minded center to back him up, but will need to improve on his perimeter defensive skills to keep up with the NBA’s quickness. Don’t expect Swanigan to dominate like he did in the Big Ten, but it is likely that he can play a vital secondary role in the starting lineup or as one of the best players coming off the bench.
The things that will translate well in the NBA include his toughness, rebounding and three-point shooting. His goal-driven approach to getting to the NBA will carry over as he now approaches things as a professional.
For rebounding, he not only has a nose for the ball, but also a 7’3” wingspan. Finally, from distance, Swanigan improved his three-point percentage 15 points between his freshman and sophomore season’s. Should that number remain between 35-40% in the NBA, Swanigan will be able to show great scoring versatility. As the NBA continues to open up and teams rely more on the three-point shot, Swanigan will position himself nicely with Portland.
It will be interested to watch Portland in the near future as Swanigan battles to establish himself as a main cog in the organization. Given his work ethic, scoring ability and rebounding, he has a great chance for a prolonged NBA career.